The words “elbow” and “damage” can easily be terrifying when used together in any headline about a pitcher, much less one who could potentially be among the greatest players of his generation and certainly among the most fascinating, but do not fret (that much). Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports has reported that Shohei Ohtani has a first-degree UCL sprain—which is certainly not good, but it’s quite a ways away from necessarily and damningly bad.
The sprain, the least severe classification of UCL damage, was noted in the physical that was presented to all MLB teams when Ohtani was posted. He received pain management treatment for his elbow the form of a platelet-rich plasma shot in October, and there’s no reason that he shouldn’t be able to “continue full baseball participation with sufficient elbow care program,” per the report distributed to teams. (At least, that is, there’s no reason that he shouldn’t be able to continue full baseball participation related to his elbow—he’s currently recovering from a minor ankle surgery.)
There’s always, of course, a chance that any level of UCL damage could ultimately result in Tommy John surgery. And also a chance that it could not! The Angels—who, again, already knew about this, just like every other team—are maintaining that they’re fine: